Ewen McKenzie will coach the Wallabies to the 2015 Rugby World Cup after the Australian Rugby Union released Robbie Deans from his two-year contract six months early.
The departing Reds coach, who steered the Queensland side to a Super Rugby title in 2011, was named as Deans’ successor at a press conference in Brisbane on Tuesday afternoon.
The ARU released a statement on Tuesday morning announcing Deans will step down the role, effective immediately. The Kiwi mentor, who has been at the helm for 74 Tests since 2008, advised Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver on Monday afternoon.
“I wish to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in Australian rugby for their support through the duration of my tenure,” Deans said. “It has been a rewarding five years and I am proud of all that we have achieved. Most especially I would like to thank the players for their efforts and wish them all the best going forward.”
Pulver praised Deans for his efforts in charge of the Wallabies.
“Robbie came into the job in 2008, improved our away record almost immediately, delivered a Tri Nations title in 2011, and has been a significant part of a Lions tour that overshadows any other rugby event in Australia since the 2003 Rugby World Cup. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours and to build further on what is one of world Rugby’s most impressive coaching resumes.
“As a consequence of a coaching review process that has been ongoing through 2013, we are also in a position to make a further announcement on the coaching position – and name Robbie’s replacement – later today.”
McKenzie saw off a powerful challenge from Brumbies coach Jake White, who was considered a strong favourite for the position just a few weeks ago. White coached the Springboks to World Cup victory in 2007 and was responsible for leading a revival of the Brumbies. But after Deans’ 5½-year tenure, the clamour for an Australian to get the job was great.
McKenzie’s success at the Reds – since winning in 2011, the side has made the Super Rugby finals two years in a row – was also at the core of a push for his appointment.
Deans’ fate was sealed when the Wallabies lost 41-16 in the series decider against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday. He met with ARU chief executive Bill Pulver in Sydney on Monday and was informed of his fate, after appearing resigned to it after the disappointing Test match.
The 53-year-old was appointed after the 2007 World Cup and retained on a two-year contract after the 2011 tournament, where Australia fell to the All Blacks in the semi-finals. Deans, a Christchurch-raised former All Black who enjoyed unprecedented success as coach of the Crusaders, took the Wallabies from fifth spot in the world rankings to a sustained peak of second, before an injury-marred season last year dropped them to third.
Under Deans, the Wallabies won the 2011 Tri Nations but never won the coveted Bledisloe Cup, which New Zealand has held since 2003. McKenzie announced in March his intention to leave the Reds and pursue a national coaching role, saying at the time: ”Anyone who knows me understands I have strong coaching ambitions and, after spending nine years coaching at a Super Rugby level, I’m excited about pursuing a different role either here or overseas.”
A Melbourne-raised former town planner, he turned to rugby seriously after moving to Sydney and joining Randwick rugby club, where he played with Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, among others.
McKenzie, a prop, played in the 1991 World Cup-winning Wallabies side in a playing career that spanned 51 Tests. He was an assistant Wallabies coach under Rod Macqueen and Eddie Jones before moving to the Waratahs in 2004, guiding NSW to two Super Rugby finals, in 2005 and 2008. After being controversially sacked by the Waratahs, he moved to France and coached Stade Francais, before joining the Reds in late 2009.
His appointment could pave the way for the return of controversial former Test five-eighth Quade Cooper, whose Wallabies career appeared to be over while Deans was in the job. Cooper played no part in the three-Test Lions series, only starting at No.10 for the Reds in their Lions tour match.
McKenzie has been a staunch supporter of his playmaker and might be expected to extend that support to Test selection. But he faces an uphill battle preparing the Wallabies for the Bledisloe Cup series and Rugby Championship, from August 17.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.